- National Poetry Slam - Worcester Team
Elizabeth Heath, or Liz, is the current Slam Master of the Worcester Poetry Slam Asylum. Very direct with her presentation, Liz started with poetry slam in 2005-2006, walking in by “accident.” Since then, she has come every Sunday religiously. She started hosting open mic nights and slams in 2008, taking over as slam master in 2012. She has been writing since she has been 10 and performing poems for a decade. Although she performed pieces in schools, she never really was into performance until coming to the asylum, bringing a much different feeling than she had while she was in school.
According to Liz, the people at the asylum are all there for the same thing: putting their emotions out there and not judging others for doing so. To help the youth scene, she frequently offers workshops for middle school and high school students, meeting every week for the “Louder than a Bomb” Festival, helping them by controlling the fear they have on stage.
Liz is the host of two different poetry readings in Worcester and Marlborough, in which the Marlborough reading is a smaller and more low key event. She is helped in Worcester by her cohost, Sarah Sepianza, for various events at the poetry slam such as booking features. Sue MacMillan assists both of them in the management of the website.
In terms of Worcester and the grand scheme of things, Worcester is heavily connected with the other large Poetry Slam communities in the North East, with Portland, Manchester, Providence, Boston, and Worcester knowing each other affectionately as the “North Beast in the North East.” These five communities host a series of slams known as “North Beast Slams,” and invitations are also sent to communities down in New Jersey. The familial aspect of Slam is heavily emphasized in the community, and each area considers the others as part of the larger family.
For Worcester itself, Worcester is the oldest slam in New England and one of the oldest slams in the nation. It produces a wide variety of readings in the city, although the Poets’ Asylum hosts the only slam. In spite of this, there is an intermingling between the readings. While some communities eschew bonding between readings, the community in Worcester is very supportive of one another.
Although not a coach of the Worcester Youth Poetry Slam, Liz is a large promoter of the youth slam. She and Alex Charalambides perform demo slams, and she was a bout manager for the Louder than a Bomb festival, arranging things such as the judging panel. However, when she does coach, she does note that she is not one to sugar coat her thoughts, and like many poets here, she is very straightforward with her presentation and will push hard. She believes that the rush of adrenaline and the nervousness are part of the Slam, and if there is no rush, there is something wrong. The goal for her is to connect with the audience, and scores and winning are second to that connection.
Liz is inspired by her family, and her poems constantly draw on that inspiration. Stylewise, Liz changes her style often. She began as a very intense poet, but, inspired by poets in the area such as Bill and Sue MacMillan (her “slam parents”), she has been pushed to change the way she writes. Inspired by challenging poems, poems that make people think a different way, she constantly pushes herself to adapt different techniques into her style.
As she has been an active member of the Poetry Slam community, she is part of the newer generation taking the reigns from the managers at the start of the movement. For her, it is part of seeing what the new generation can bring out and hearing their own voice. In particular, there are many poets that recycle poems because they are aware that it works well in competition. For Liz, she retires poems that she knows will work in competition so that she can push herself to innovate.